The state of North Carolina just got a big boost from the federal government in the state’s battle against colorectal cancer.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that it received a good dose of funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will enable the state to partner with Federally Qualified Health Centers to do things like inform people of cancer’s warning signs, and, most importantly, increase colorectal cancer screenings across the state.

Federally Qualified Health Centers are usually community-based health care centers that provide primary care services in underserved areas and those centers often include service for individuals who don’t have health insurance. The grant will allow for tests for the disease in many medically underserved communities in North Carolina since people in those communities are less likely to get screened. Especially these days, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, people are often avoiding tests and screenings for diseases and conditions including the various forms of cancer.

The state currently falls below recommended screening levels for colorectal cancer.

NC Section Division of Public Health Chief for Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Dr. Susan Kansagra said in a press release announcing the grant that the disease is very prominent in this state.

“Colorectal cancer is the fourth leading cause of all cancer deaths in North Carolina,” she stated, “but it’s treatable and beatable if caught in early stages. Our aim is to remove barriers to screening and treatment for people in the higher-risk age range – 50 to 75 – including those who may not have access to health insurance, and move North Carolina further toward the national testing goal of screening 80 percent in every community.”

This funding plan, which runs for five years and includes nearly $700,000 in the first year, will help health centers improve their colorectal cancer screening systems and also help them educate their communities on the importance of routine screenings for early detection.

The funding will also be used to provide appropriate follow-up care for uninsured or underinsured patients who get back abnormal test results.

According to state health officials, colorectal cancer particularly impacts historically marginalized populations, including racial and ethnic minorities – with African-Americans having the highest incidence and mortality rates. Last year, Federally Qualified Health Centers in the state served more than 610,000 patients, a third of whom were African-American and 30 percent who reported Hispanic/LatinX ethnicity. However, only 46 percent of patients age 50-75 were screened for colorectal cancer.